Disclaimer: Kakashi, do the disclaimer!
Kakashi: Megumi-chan doesn't own Naruto. Unfortunately, that means that she doesn't own me either.
Megumi: We belong to one another! Let's get rid of Kishimoto and then I can own my Kakashi-kun!
Kakashi: But Naruto isn't over yet.
Megumi: True. Let's force him to relinquish you to me when he's done Naruto. Besides, the series needs more of you in it!
Kakashi: I agree. –hugs-
AN: Sorry for not updating for so long. I really shouldn't be updating now as I have a torrent of studying and work to do but I had a huge inclination to write fanficton and I couldn't ignore it. I also began a new NejiTen story called "Two Weeks". Check it out and I hope you enjoy both this story and my new one too! For the readers who have supported me since the beginning, thank you! Please enjoy the last chapter of "The Portrait". (I hope I don't get flamed for an epilogue.)
"You see Naruto-kun, whenever you shared your stories with Hinata, your soul entered this realm bit by bit and whenever Hinata told you her stories, part of her soul went into your realm, making real Hinata more… alive. Hinata realized this after your second meeting – that was why she didn't meet you for a week. She was forced to see you again when you threatened her in the real world. She was happy that you seemed to care for her of course, but she knew that you were going to put yourself in more and more danger whenever you came here."
Sai paused and stared intensely into Naruto's eyes. The blonde seemed deeply frightened.
"Now the question is, what will you do Naruto-kun? Will you pour the rest of your soul into the portrait and reside here forever so you can free Hinata completely? Or will you run away from Hinata and let her soul slowly come back to the portrait so you can have all of your soul back and live normally again?"
"I… but…" began Naruto but he was too stunned to be coherent. Suddenly, a cry rang through the tower as Hinata ran in frantically.
"Hinata!" Naruto cried as he caught the girl before she fell. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she held Naruto tightly. She could feel him shaking even as he was holding her tightly in a hug.
"N-no…" she whispered. "Don't s-sacrifice yourself Naruto. Continue your life. You have p-people who really care about you."
"But Hinata, you – "
"No Naruto… I can't live knowing t-that I trapped your soul here."
"And you think I can live knowing that I selfishly chose to save myself instead of you?"
"It wouldn't m-matter Naruto-kun," she whispered. "Your happiness is all that matters to me… I love you Naruto-kun… more than I love myself."
Naruto's shaking suddenly stopped. Calmly, he stepped away from Hinata and kissed her gently on her forehead. He held her shoulders tightly and pushed her out the window of the tower.
"You're willing to sacrifice yourself for her?" asked Sai.
"She's been trapped here for hundreds of years… doesn't that count for anything? I mean, all that time she must have been so lonely."
Sai's expression softened slightly.
"She has been here for hundreds of years watching all the people who have admired her. A few brave souls have managed to venture here but none of them stayed for long. Hinata had always wanted a normal life as the noblewoman she was. She wanted to use her power to improve things for others; she wanted to create the family she never had…"
"And now she can do it right? I'll live here instead of her Sai."
"I don't think she'll be happy if you did."
"I already went through this with Hinata. I can't leave her here!"
"What? Are you going to tell me that some other person's soul is needed for this ceremony or you need a ritual sacrifice?" he demanded impatiently.
"There is another alternative Naruto-kun…" said Sai.
"YOU COULD'VE TOLD ME THAT EARLIER!!!" yelled Naruto.
"Well, there's of course a price to pay, Naruto. However heavy or light the price is is for you to decide."
"Ok, so what is it?"
"Well, for the past three hundred years, Hinata has resided in this portrait, watching the normal world. It would be normal for her to have memories of her life here."
"Get to the point you ass of a painter."
"I was getting there," said Sai exasperatedly. "Anyways, both you and Hinata might be freed if we use her memories to replace the void the soul leaves. You see, this portrait cannot survive without a soul but if one were to leave this portrait abandoned and soulless, it would begin to take the soul of innocent bystanders and perhaps create a glitch in the natural order of the world. But three hundred years is truly long enough and these memories should be enough to replace Hinata's soul and set both you and her free from this portrait forever."
"Well then, do that!"
"Let me ask you a question first Naruto-kun."
"What?" he asked in an annoyed tone.
"You love Hinata right?" Naruto felt his face redden at the comment.
"Do… you even need to ask?" he mumbled.
"Naruto-kun, you realize that if I take all of Hinata's memories of the last three hundred years, they include all her memories with you. Without the memories of her time with you, she may never love you back again in the real world."
Naruto's expression turned into an expression of almost sadness. His shoulders were hunched and he faced the floor. Finally, after what seemed like a long period of silence he said,
"So be it. Anything to set her free."
In the art gallery, Yamato had just finished his curatorial duties. He stepped outside his office and decided that he would that a walk around the gallery before he went home. Nighttime was his most favourite time of the day – no one was in the galleries and he could admire all the artwork in a peaceful silence. He passed by the fake van Gogh and some new works by contemporary artists. Finally, he stood in front of the portrait of the young lady by the master painter Sai. He stood there with an odd smile playing on his lips – he was not a man who could be read easily. He was known to be one who could hide his emotions masterfully. Yet, his expression of unknown emotion was sincere as he looking at the painting.
"My lady, you look different tonight," he said to the portrait. With that, he walked off to go home after a long day of work.
"You're late!" said Hinata with an adorable pout on her face. She was standing in front of Ichiraku Ramen.
"Sorry Hinata-chan, Iruka made me deliver something to Anko-neechan's house," said Naruto sheepishly.
"Well, at least you're here," she said as she hugged him tightly.
"Of course, how could I forget our one year anniversary? Besides, we're having ramen, just like on our first date!"
"Well, you did forget the six month anniversary… and you almost forgot my birthday if it weren't for Sakura-chan."
Naruto looked at her girlfriend for a moment, contemplating. The Hinata in the real world had changed and blossomed. She no longer stuttered and enjoyed jestfully teasing Naruto frequently but she was still the same Hinata he knew and loved… for more than a year.
"Have you ever considered the possibility that you've forgotten more things than I have?" he asked jokingly as he played with one of her indigo tresses.
"Impossible," she stated confidently. "But it really doesn't matter does it?"
"Nope, not at all," replied Naruto softly as he gave his girlfriend a kiss.